Basketball Insider

How the Projected Top Four Draft Picks Fit with the Thunder’s Roster

How the Projected Top Four Draft Picks Fit with the Thunder’s Roster

Rumors have been swirling about who the Thunder will draft with their second overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft.

Instead of guessing who OKC will draft, this serves a deep-dive into how each of the four top draftees will fit with the Thunder’s current roster.

Each player provides a different skill set and brings special strengths to enhance Oklahoma City.

 

Jabari Smith

If the Orlando Magic do not take Jabari Smith with the overall number one pick in the 2022 NBA draft, he would automatically fit into OKC’s offensive scheme.

Smith joining Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey would be a Thunderous trifecta.

Giddey has become a true creative force with the basketball. He can thread any pass and at six-foot-eight sees over the top of NBA defenses.

On top of his elite playmaking ability, Giddey also is strong on the boards. He uses his high basketball IQ to read shot trajectories and is almost always in the right spot to snag a rebound.

Gilgeous-Alexander is a huge iso-weapon for Oklahoma City. He can beat just about anyone off the dribble and uses his angles to finish any bucket in the paint.

Stellar in the midrange, Gilgeous-Alexander can stop on a dime to pull-up for a  jumpshot.

But both the Thunder guards  lack efficiency from the perimeter. Giddey averaged 26 percent from deep his rookie season while Gilgeous-Alexander made 30 percent of his attempts. This is where Smith’s sharp shooting comes in.

Smith shot 43.6 percent from deep last season for Auburn, proving his lethal spot-up shooting abilities.

Standing at six-foot-ten some teams would place Smith as a small ball five. But mixing in Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Derrick Favors would add length to the floor while allowing Smith to work on the perimeter more.

Defensively, Smith can be very versatile. Seeing how he fought through screens and rotated off ball well, he will not be a liability.

Smith can intimidate guards with his length from three-point range while Favors or Robinson-Earl protects the paint.

His athleticism would shine brightly on the defensive end.

Adding Smith to OKC’s lineup would allow much more movement for Gilgeous-Alexander and give Giddey more options.

The Thunder would have an athletic spot-up shooter on the perimeter, a crafty iso-guard and a daredevil playmaker as starters. Needless to say, NBA teams would struggle defensively against this trio.

 

Chet Holmgren

Oklahoma City does not have a skilled rim protector like Chet Holmgren, much less one standing at seven-foot.

He’s an elite ambidextrous shot-blocker who averaged 3.6 blocks per game for Gonzaga. At seven-foot, Holmgren is surprisingly coordinated.

Not locked into the paint though, Holmgren’s capable enough of laterally moving along the perimeter. This will prove useful against NBA switching defenses.

Having a player of Holmgren’s length would get Isaiah Roby and Robinson-Earl out of playing a small-ball five. Both Roby and Robinson-Earl could spread the floor and add length to the court.

Holmgren and Robinson-Earl playing alongside each other gives the offense multiple options off the pick-and-roll. Since Holmgren shot 41 percent from deep for Gonzaga last season, he could just as easily cause mismatches on the perimeter.

Also there’s no doubt that if Holmgren played primarily in the paint, Giddey would have no issue throwing him some easy lobs.

Once a player like Holmgren is on the floor, Darius Bazley would be given a lot of freedom. These two could create an interesting offensive flow.

Holmgren could pull attention with his length and leave space for Bazley on the perimeter. This way Bazley has options to pull-up for a triple or dominantly drive to the basket.

These two players side by side make for various offensive combinations. Both are lengthy, coordinated ball-handlers that have fascinating skill sets.

Bazley truly improved his defensive game last season and began covering some of the toughest players in the league. By moving laterally on the perimeter, Bazley could stay in front of talented guards.

With Bazley’s tenacious defense on the perimeter, Holmgren would hold down the lane and protect the rim. It would be near impossible to score on a Bazley-Holmgren duo.

Since Holmgren has a unique skill set the possibilities he brings to Oklahoma City would be endless.

 

Paolo Banchero

Even though Paolo Banchero is best suited as a small-ball five, the Thunder could benefit from a talented interior scorer.

Banchero utilizes his power and finesse on post-ups, scores through contact and is a talented finisher.

A sturdier force inside would open up space for Tre Mann and Mike Muscala to work on the perimeter. It would also give Giddey a dynamic option in the paint or on the elbow.

OKC’s offense has not had a lot of looks from the elbow seeing as the roster is guard heavy and their offense is usually run from the top of the key. With Banchero’s ball-handling skills with his length, he could thrive facilitating from the elbows. This could spark various backdoor cuts for Gilgeous-Alexander to finish a crafty lay-up or an explosive Mann dunk.

*In addition to those backdoor cuts, if Banchero creates from the elbow it could set up Aleksej Pokusevski quite nicely.

These two would be the perfect one-two punch. While Banchero can use his fluid ball handling to pull-up for a floater or drive to the basket. Joining Banchero, Pokusevski brings additional length to the floor with an extended range.

Any playmaker around these two would be successful.

Oklahoma City does not have a player on their roster at Banchero’s height that is as coordinated defensively. Flashing defensive skills, Banchero has the ability to slide laterally against smaller guards. He would give the Thunder some edge with their rotations.

Although his effort defensively evaporated at Duke, when trying Banchero is an effective help-side defender who can alter shots around the rim using his length and athleticism.

Overall, Banchero’s skill set would work extremely well with many OKC lineups. You could not lose with Banchero joining the fold.

 

Jaden Ivey

If you want a dynamic three-point shooter, Jaden Ivey is definitely that guy.

Ivey is consistently confident with his outside shooting. Last season, Ivey made 33.3 percent of his threes off the dribble and 35.5 percent on catch-and-shoot threes. Also comfortable using stepbacks to garner space and pull-up for any jumpshot.

Most than just a threat from deep, his midrange game is definitely there. Ivey leans on fadeaways and developed a floater that skies over shot blockers.

With one of the quickest steps in the draft, Ivey has a deep bag of offensive advantages. It’s more a question of what can’t he do.

Ivey’s a dynamic shot creator in iso, can finish at the rim with either hand and scores through contact.

He is just as influential in transition. Threatening with or without the ball, opposing defenses are left helpless.

At the beginning of the 2021-2022 season, Thunder Head Coach Mark Daigneault experimented with a certain three-guard lineup. This included Theo Maledon, Ty Jerome and Mann.

This trio proved to be undersized when  competing against lengthier NBA teams and was not always effective.

But throw in Ivey instead of Maledon or Jerome and it could thrive. Since he is a more charismatic play-maker than Jerome, Ivey can create more pathways for the other guards to feast.

But if Maledon or Jerome take the facilitator role, Ivey is an active cutter and mover off-ball. There’s no doubt his off-ball movement would be awarded.

An twitchy player like Ivey would play very well with Mann. Both players can score at all three levels. While Ivey a better ball-handler, these two athletes would be too quick for defenses to contain.

Ivey’s style would mesh well with the Thunder’s roster. If drafted, he projects to be a smart and talented shot creator. Considering that Oklahoma City’s culture is looking to push the pace, Ivey is just the player to execute that style of play.

 

 

Any of these four players would become a difference maker to the lineup. OKC cannot go wrong drafting any of these four players.

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